Learning to fly was not cheap and for years while I was in high school and college I had to be content with reading about flying. My first job after graduating from college was in Teterboro, New Jersey.
Purely by coincidence I found myself across the street from Teterboro airport.
I decided it was time. I had a little money and started to take lessons during my lunch hour. Again I was struck with this incredible feeling of breaking the bonds of earth. I never experienced this feeling as a passenger on a commercial flight.
After a certain number of hours the instructor signs off that you are ready to solo. Typically this occurs at a field or airport that has little traffic. My instructor decided to get out of the plane after we touched down at Caldwell airport in NJ one day. It took me totally by surprise. He said, “You are ready. Now do a couple of touch and goes (take offs and landings) and then come pick me up”. I always wondered if he took some Valium to keep himself calm when he signed a student off to solo. But it turned out to be uneventful and after doing my solo cross country flight from Teterboro to Albany, NY to Danbury Connecticut and back and several more hours I took my flight test and written exam and was officially designated as a Pilot.
Subsequently I changed jobs and my next company sent me out to Las Vegas to install a new computer system at a new Resort Casino, the original MGM Grand. As luck would have it again I was within moderate distance of two airports, Las Vegas North and a small airport south of the City.
I always wanted to take up gliding and this was my chance. The small airport was situated in the desert about a half hour outside of Vegas and was the perfect place to learn to glide. I drove out to the airport and met a cowboy, his wife and a sidekick. They looked like they were straight out of a movie. But these were no ordinary cowboys/cowgirl. These people lived for flying. They taught me precision flying because with a glider you don’t get a second chance to land if you make a mistake. The lesson I learned about thermals from the loss of my toy plane helped when I learned to glide. In hindsight I regretted not taking up gliding first because I think you become a much more focused pilot. You cannot depend on power to get you out of a jam.
I was in Vegas for about 10 months and got my glider rating and also did some regular flying at the Las Vegas North airport.
The difference in flying around Las Vegas and flying in the Northeast is stunning. The countryside around Vegas is stark and uninhabited for many miles. In the Northeast it is lush but densely populated and in many cases over-developed.
I continued to fly for several years after returning from Vegas. And continued to glide at an airport in Westhampton NY.
But then life got in the way. Only kidding. I concentrated on my wonderful family (that now includes two great grand-kids) and work and flying drifted to the end of the list although I never gave up thinking about it.
I recently retired and I am looking forward to another chance to take off again.